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Natural Sugar Substitute “Stevia”

Artificial Sweeteners and Natural Sugar Substitute Stevia

 

Story of sweeteners

Let’s have quick look at our global food culture before we dive into the topic of sweeteners and stevia.

After the Second World War came the industrialization of our food production. As economies recovered and living standards increased after the wars, sugar became affordable.

In the 1970’s, in reaction to high heart disease rates of the time, the US government agencies introduced the first official low-fat/no cholesterol nutritional guidelines based on totally unfounded  “diet-heart hypothesis.” The whole world took these bogus claims for factual.

The food industry followed suit and started an aggressive campaign promoting low-fat/no cholesterol food products. Soon, profitable fake foods such as vegetable oils, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and syrups from GMOs were introduced as part of the standard American diet (SAD). With rapidly growing candy and fast food industries, obesity, diabetes, hypothyroid disease and countless other chronic complications increased in the Western societies.
The food industry had another trick in their bag. Seemingly “healthy” sugar substitutes such as …

  • ‘first generation’ saccharin-sweetened Sweet’N Low and aspartame-sweetened Equal,
  • followed by ‘new generation’ sweeteners such as acesulfame-K, sucralose, alitame and neotame

… were introduced to aid diabetics primarily. Nowadays, artificial sweeteners are added to a variety of foods, drinks, drugs and hygiene products. It is safe to assume that today nearly every citizen of Western countries uses artificial sweeteners, knowingly or not.

 

Media campaign against artificial sweeteners

Since their introduction, public’s sense of security regarding artificial sweeteners was undermined by mass media reports of potential cancer risks. We do not want to choose sides in this discussion. We feel that the possible risk of artificial sweeteners to induce cancer is beyond the focus of our website, and this topic needs separate attention.

Nevertheless, we believe that the carcinogenic risk of a single substance is impossible to assess because many artificial sweeteners are combined in today’s industrial food products.

This much is a fact though: More than one-third of U.S. adults (35 % or roughly 80 million) are obese.  One in every 10 U.S. adults (10 % or roughly 30 million) is diabetic. Refined carbs and sugar-dense foods and beverages are the major contributing factor.

It’s no wonder we have grown used to these various sweetening options. For fewer calories, many choose these sugar alternatives and put up with an artificial flavor or a funky aftertaste. We’re in constant search of sweet but “healthy” solutions.

 

Stevia

KETO Stevia plant2Stevia, an FDA-approved sweetener, attempts to be the answer to our sweet cravings. It is becoming increasingly popular, blending in between the pink, blue and yellow packets at coffee shops, even making its way into brand name soda products like Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True.

The Guarani Indians in Paraguay have used stevia since the 16th century. By the 1800s, the leaf’s popularity had expanded throughout much of South America. The mid-20th century saw the debut of artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and saccharin.  Today stevia accounts for 40 percent of Japan’s sweetener market.

Stevia might sound like the miracle solution for dropping a few pounds because it is virtually calorie-free  and up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. These characteristics make it appealing as a natural alternative to both sugar and artificial sweeteners.  But there’s no conclusive evidence that will hamper a person’s sweet tooth or keep him/her from overeating.

All in all, stevia’s sweet taste and all-natural origins make it a popular sugar substitute. With little research data available on this plant extract, it is possible that stevia in large quantities could have harmful effects. However, it is safe to say that when consumed in reasonable amounts, stevia may be an exceptional natural plant-based sugar substitute. The use of stevia has been found to aid in calcium formation, lower blood sugar and lower blood pressure. It is generally recognized as safe by the FDA.

There’s more to stevia you might want to know about:

  • Stevia is extracted from the Stevia Rebaudiana, a plant.

This sugar substitute is extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana, a plant naturally grown in Brazil and Paraguay for hundreds of years. Its extracts are widely used to sweeten foods in Brazil, Paraguay, Japan, Korea, and China. The plant gets its sweetness from naturally occurring glycosides, which are extracted from the stevia leaves.

  • Packaged stevia isn’t “all natural.”

Many packaged stevia brands include additional ingredients.

Truvia (is fine to use while on ketosis) contains erythritol, a sugar alcohol, and “natural flavors”, along with the stevia leaf extract.

Pyure (try to stay away from this one) contains dextrose, a starch-derived glucose which is often extracted from corn, wheat or rice.

  • White tablets and green leaves of natural sweetener steviaStevia is available in liquid and powdered form.

The sweetener comes in drops, in fine grainy powder form and in granulated sugar-comparable form. Each form varies in concentration of sweetness.

  • Stevia doesn’t caramelize the way sugar does.
  • Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Even though it’s calorie-free, stevia extract tastes 300 times sweeter than the same amount of granulated table sugar. A little goes a long way.

  • Stevia lowers blood glucose levels.

Some research has found that stevia acts as an anti-hyperglycemic agent or high blood sugar antagonist, because of its ability to lower blood glucose levels by up to 35 % in healthy individuals and 18 % in patients with type-II diabetes. Following food intake, our body stabilizes blood sugar much more efficiently than traditional table sugar. Lower insulin levels were also measured in individuals who consumed stevia compared to those who ate aspartame and sucrose.

  • Stevia reduces insulin resistance.

A 2015 report by Food and Chemical Toxicology provides greater support to stevia products. The report claims that stevia reduces insulin resistance by enhancing insulin secretion and improves both glucose metabolism and the breakdown of fat and bile acid which aids in weight control.

  • Stevia aids our immune system.

Some studies found that stevia aids our immune system. Two water-soluble compounds contained in stevia, chlorphylls and xanthophylls, are the reason why stevia exhibits anti-inflammation and cancer protective properties. These components have actually been shown to limit tumor promoting cell growth.

  • Stevia replaces sugar in our ketogenic baking recipes.

We utilize stevia in our fat bombs, drink mixes (pure citric acid crystals from lemon, essential oils for flavor, chia seeds, stevia), chia seed cakes and bars.

WARNING!! Agave nectar

Health-conscious people who are searching for a natural sweetener have probably come across agave nectar. In recent years, agave has been touted as a natural sugar substitute that can be added to beverages, baked goods and other foods in need of a sweet boost. However, contrary to popular belief, agave is not a natural sweetener. While the name ‘agave nectar’ sounds natural, it is actually highly refined from the root of the agave plant, similar to the extraction process for cane or beet sugar.

In fact, some experts argue that agave is worse for our health than other sugar substitutes, such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Both agave and HFCS contain fructose, which is the sugar naturally found in fruit. HFCS contains about 55 percent fructose, whereas agave contains closer to 90 percent.

So, stay away from ‘agave nectar.’

 

 

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